RELIGIOUS CONGREGATIONS HAVE a ‘moral obligation’ to meet half of the cost of redress for victims of residential abuse in Ireland, according to Education Minister Ruairí Quinn.
Writing in the Irish Examiner today, Quinn says that the taxpayer is continuing to bear much of the cost of the €1.47 billion fund set up for victims of abuse in residential institutions with some 15,000 former residents expected to eventually receive money.
Successive governments have argued that religious congregations should share this cost with the State on a 50-50 basis but Quinn writes that gap between what congregations have offered through their property portfolio and their contribution in 2002 remains “at least €200 million”.
There may be no strict legal obligation on the congregations to do so. But I believe there is a moral obligation. However, there has been no general acceptance by the congregations that they should meet a 50 per cent share. Instead, the taxpayer continues to shoulder the brunt of these enormous costs.
Quinn writes that a “fair and equitable” resolution would be the transfer of school and health infrastructure that religious congregations own to the State at no cost.
“The schools would continue to operate as schools under the existing ethos and patrons until such time as they choose to make any changes,” he writes.
He also urges congregations to pay the €110 million that they are expected to contribute to the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund. The fund already has €66 million through money already received and money due from congregations.
He writes: “The fund will focus on meeting identified needs of survivors by funding the provision of a range of services. They will include counselling, health and personal social services, educational services, and housing support services.”
Quinn urges congregations to contribute the remaining €110 million saying that it “is the right thing to do”.